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(Acts, ii. 38), Repent, and be baptized, every one of you. Baptism there, you see, was considered as a secondary duty, as addressing persons of riper years; for, baptism verily availeth nothing. without a new creature; repent ye, therefore, and be converted. (Acts, iii. 19.) Here you see again, repentance is mentioned as preparatory to conversion ; for a man cannot be said to turn to God, or love him, till he feels a hatred for sin, and is sorry he has offended, and for which reason men are commanded every where to repent, and to turn unto God, to ask earnestly for the gift, and strive continually to improve it.
Having thus stated to you, in the plainesť manner, and shown from Scripture the only condition through which we can expect forgiveness of sin, consistently with just notions of God's truth and purity, I will now mention some of the fatal mistakes men are apt to indulge concerning it, which was the last part of the subject I proposed for your instruction. These mistakes proceed from several causes--either from ignorance, false doctrine, or an unregenerated mind, and love of sin; and, therefore, though people have eyes, they see not--and ears, they hear not; they are stone-blind and incurably deaf to the purity of the Gospel principles, and wrest the Scriptures to their destruction, think
ng they have life, while they are walking in vanity, in darkness, and the shadow of death.
The heart of man being desperately deceitful and wicked, and his flesh inclined to all manner of evil, from the depraved state of its constitution, from its partaking of the disordered elements of the world through which he is passing, is startled and discouraged at the difficulties and mortifications which seem to attend a truly virtuous and religious life; yet naturally aware, from the stings of conscience, that the end of the wicked is death eternal, he would willingly make out a short and sure road to heaven, without giving up the sinful pleasures that tempt and gratify his animal nature. He admits, perhaps, that the Scriptures are true, and therefore cannot deceive ; and he thinks he is safe in applying to, and abiding by, those passages which seem to countenance his careless and unfruitful conduct; and in them there being some texts, which, taken apart, without giving their full and faithful sense, as connected with the main body of the Gospel institutes, from which they are forced and tortured for the most dangerous doctrines—these, the ignorant, the slothful, and carnal-minded are apt to wrest and lean upon, as favouring their present wishes and false opinions. Though they see much good example in those who are of a sounder persuasion, yet, as they are not sensible of the same power actuating their own inclinations and endeavours, they perversely term it building up man's own righteousness: they split on that rock which magnifies faith without works, being totally ignorant of the true faith in Christ, which can only be known by its fruits; and therefore they may be truly said to make shipwreck of the faith. Because they read, that there is none doeth good, no not one; and that our best works are but as filthy rags; they suppose it needless to strive after holiness of life, though it is expressly declared, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. They attend not to the spirit of the above phrases, which are only spoken comparatively with the source of all good, and indicating the will of our fallen nature, without God's assisting grace. They take every text at the letter, that favours their prejudices and passions, and endeavour to explain away the spirit of all those that insist on a new heart and life. As in one true sense Christ is said to have died for all, and for the ungodly, they therefore presumptuously apply the virtue of his atonement to themselves, though they continue to live in their sins: and, because it is written, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, they work themselves' up to a dependence upon a faith that is no better than that of devils, so long as it is unproductive of repentance and good works. I speak of those who have a knowledge, but not a saving knowledge, of Holy Scripture,
(for the very best are in a state of imperfection, and unprofitable servants), and therefore of necessity an atonement must be made for all; but there is a material difference between sins of infirmity, between the pervading depravity of original sin, which will in a degree assault our nature as long as we are in this state of trial, and subject to the prison of flesh and blood; and such foul and presumptuous sins-such excessive indulgences in vain courses, as are wilfully committed and persisted in by the unregenerated, to the end of life, and blasphemously supposed will be forgiven, because the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin. He who builds on the mercy of God, at the expense of his truth, purity, and justice, is in the gall of bitterness, and such are all they who rashly and profanely go on to sin securely, fatally misapplying the meaning of that mistaken text, that, where sin abounded, there did grace much more abound: which is used by the Apostle merely to show that, by the law againt sin, its true and hateful naturo became more clear ; but that the grace of God, which enables man to subdue sin, was much more powerful and blessed in its effect, than the terrors of any positive law could be ; because it was the spirit of life: for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, that can the grace of the Spirit of God effect, When it is said, All sin shall be forgiven unte men, we may safely interpret it, both of original sin, and actual sins, repented of on Gospel principles; for, if Christ had not satisfied for original sin, no infant could be safe, nor even the most perfect of his faithful followers, since the first were conceived in sin, and in many things we all offend : but as sure as Christ both lived and died on this earth, in order to redeem us from the curse of sin and death, so sure all who have not, in some shape, subdued by his Spirit the various pollutions that are in the world, through the inordinate appetites and inclinations of the carnal mind; all who have not, by repentance (not to be repented of), sorely lamented their past wickedness, and in sincerity turned from the error of their ways ; all who have not experienced the absolute necessity of Christ's purifying to himself a people zealous of good works; all who have not this witness of the Spirit, will never find the benefit of the forgiveness they look for; they can never expect to be called true and faithful servants, and to be welcomed, and enter into the joy of their Lord. In short, when all sin is promised to be forgiven, and a pure faith is admitted of the blood of Christ cleansing from all sin, it is always meant of all sin repented of, according to the Spirit of Christ's Gospel : and to believe that the blood of Christ will atone for any hardened, wilful, profligate, and presumptuous